Shortness of breath is most often associated with other, more serious medical conditions, and can be rather frightening and unnerving for those who suffer from it. In the weight loss and exercise industry questions remain as to whether or not there's any relation between weight gain and shortness of breath.
For instance, if you gain weight and do not exercise, can that cause shortness of breath? If so, are there other more serious things you need to worry about?
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Medical studies suggest that most Americans experience at least a few episodes of shortness of breath in their lifetime. This is normal and can be brought about by anxiety, heart palpitations, overexertion, and a host of other benign issues. But chronic shortness of breath is another issue entirely.
Most commonly such a condition is caused by things like asthma, emphysema, leaking heart valves, and fluid in the lungs. In fewer cases, shortness of breath can be caused by excessive or rapid weight gain, or just by being terribly out of shape.
What is the relationship between gaining weight, not exercising, and shortness of breath?
First and foremost it's important to separate the lack of exercise with shortness of breath. While studies do show that excessive or rapid weight gain can cause shortness of breath, this would be true regardless of whether or not you're exercising. Exercise only comes into the equation when engaging in such activity contributes to shortness of breath. Otherwise, when shortness of breath is tied to body weight it is due to the excess pounds, not your level of exercise.
Excess and/or rapid weight gain puts undue stress on the entire body, especially the cardiovascular system. The stress on the heart is most pronounced because it must work against the body's excess weight in order continue proper blood circulation and oxygen levels. As body weight increases, the heart must work harder, which can result in periods of shortness of breath. That said, such episodes are a precursor to more serious problems that might arise if the weight gain is not addressed.
How does being out of shape contribute to shortness of breath?
A person who is considerably out of shape is more prone than his in-shape counterparts to developing a condition known as "deconditioning". Deconditioning is a scenario where the body's internal systems begin to slow down and work less efficiently due to a lack of workload. In other words, think of it in terms of the well-known phrase "use it or lose it." Just as your body can be conditioned to work better through exercise, it can be deconditioned by the lack thereof.
Since deconditioning is most commonly the result of being in poor physical shape, the obvious way to correct the issue is to get yourself back into shape. If you experience shortness of breath because of deconditioning, you'll also most likely experience it when you begin a workout program. But if you're cautious enough to take a break when you're short of breath, and you persevere through the discomfort, you will eventually reach a point of breakthrough where both the deconditioning issue and the shortness of breath cease.
If shortness of breath is due to gaining weight and not exercising, should I be concerned about other problems?
Gaining a few extra pounds as one ages is normal and nothing to be concerned about. But any weight gain of more than seven or eight pounds needs to be taken seriously, especially if you're suffering shortness of breath along with it. While these two symptoms may not imply more serious issues in the short-term, they can lead to other problems in the long-term if they are not dealt with.
In order to remain as healthy as possible and avoid serious issues that could be linked to shortness of breath, you are advised to practice good nutrition and regular, moderate exercise. If you already practice a healthy lifestyle yet you still gain weight and experience shortness of breath, this is something you should take your doctor immediately. These symptoms are almost always a sign of serious health issues; most notably cardiovascular and respiratory problems.
The earlier you get to your doctor with such symptoms the more likely he is to be able to successfully treat you. But the longer you wait, and longer weight gain and shortness of breath persists, the more likely you are to develop other problems which are difficult to treat.